|Bill Jennings, Grand Duke Patrick Noonan, Grand Duchess Pollo Del Mar and Valentin Aguirre celebrate at Ducal Investiture 2009: Solid Gold.
Notorious Sainted Glamazon About Town
A voracious reader from a young age, I have always loved fantasy. Throughout elementary school, an author named Ruth Chew fascinated me with stories of witchcraft and magic. In my early teens, a visit to the local bookmobile found me hopelessly addicted to the C.S. Lewis series Chronicles of Narnia. Both were instant escape from my mundane life and string of ever-changing schools.
When I started high school, a classmate introduced me to Anne Riceâ€™s An Interview with a Vampire. While my friend tried in vain to turn me on to the novel, for reasons unknown, I was unconvinced. All that changed the summer after my freshman year.
During a family trip to a local flea market, I found a dog-eared copy of the book in a 25-cent bin. Before we arrived home that evening, I was several chapters in, already helplessly catapulted into the lives of Louis and Lestat, Riceâ€™s now-legendary and utterly homo-erotic undead.
Like those characters, I too had an inner yearning to be seen and understood (as a gay man, of course, not a vampire - though the parallels were uncanny in my teenage mind). As so many gays have noted over the years, I felt a connection with those vampires like I imagined no heterosexual person could.
What young gay man canâ€™t relate to the fascination with youth, culture, beauty and fashion? The innate ability to instantly recognize another of their kind, even in a crowded room, reminded me of that sixth sense I now call â€śgaydar.â€ť The double-lives they were required to live, disguising who they truly are by day and only unleashing their fullest potential by night, reminded me so much of my own closeted existence. Even their hunger seemed like a metaphor for my own emerging sexuality, which alternately disguised itself as conquest and, ultimately, the search for a deeper connection.
As a result, I not only read but re-read that edition of Interview until the cover fell off. I did the same with The Vampire Lestat, another flea market find, shortly thereafter. Both proved the perfect diversion from the relatively painful experience that was high school â€“ not to mention acting as something akin to soft-core gay porn for me.
Over the next many years, I continued to thrill at Riceâ€™s catalogue of increasingly convoluted vampire tales. When Interview was finally made into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, I raced to see it in theatres. I was delighted to find it not only survived translation but turned out miraculously close to what I envisioned. (The same cannot be said for The Queen of the Damned, the atrocious rendering of the third in Riceâ€™s series, but I digress.)
Many years later, when Stephenie Meyer once again made vampires chic with Twilight, my interest was also piqued, but not enough so to actually see the movie or read her work. However, during a trip to a West Hollywood thrift store earlier this year, I saw a weathered copy on the $1 shelf and decided to pick it up.
For months, it remained buried in the trunk of my car, exactly where it landed after I bought it. Recent events uncovered it, though, and something in me decided to open its cover. Within pages, I was hooked!
With the second Twilight movie New Moon marking one of the most-anticipated film releases of the season, I devoured the near-500 page book within days. Just as those Rice novels had during my teenage years, it filled my mind with romanticized images of the other-worldly existence of vampires.
Now, of course, I drew parallels between vampires and the drag world, filled with beautiful creatures not at all who they appear to be. By day we are accountants, waiters or journalists, but after-hours we become entertainers, larger-than-life personalities, celebrities and royalty. We are Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses, Emperors, Empresses, Princesses and Princes moving through the night with glamour and grace, frequently misunderstood by even those who admire us most.
In the coming week, sandwiched between rehearsals for The Golden Girls: The Holiday Episodes, writing this column, planning a series of upcoming fundraisers for the San Francisco Ducal Council and serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless at Tenderloin Tessie, I plan to find time to see New Moon. I imagine myself sneaking into the theatre alongside countless other fans of the book, mostly young girls with no idea who I am by night, to watch our heroes come to life on the big screen.
Though a 36-year-old man will sit in my seat, I know I will be taken back to those long, childhood nights spent with my first vampire loves Louis and Lestat, dreaming of what life might be like someday. Though my life is miraculous, wonderful and exciting in ways I could never have imagined, I still occasionally fantasize of something even more magical and wondrous.
So for two hours or 500 pages, I can disappear into the incredible world of Twilight, romance and supernatural intrigue, that young boy who first fell in love with vampires more than 20 years ago. Itâ€™s good to know escape isnâ€™t reserved exclusively for the young.
Follow â€śThe Glamazonâ€ť at www.Facebook.com/PolloDelMar or www.Twitter.com/TheGlamazonPDM